Moon Prague, Vienna & Budapest
Formats and Prices
- ebook $16.99 $21.99 CAD
- Trade Paperback $23.99 $29.99 CAD
Also available from:
- Flexible itineraries for multiple days in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest that can be combined into a longer trip
- Must-see highlights and unique experiences: Admire Prague's intricate Gothic architecture, stroll the grand halls of Schönbrunn Palace, and climb the winding staircases to a magnificent view at Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest. Relax to classical music where Beethoven composed his masterpieces or in the healing waters of a natural thermal bath. Cycle alongside ruined castles, vast vineyards, and the banks of the Danube in Wachau Valley. Wander through the largest art history museum in Austria, studying ancient Egyptian frescoes, Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and various antiquities. Get into the holiday spirit at an Easter or Christmas market filled with handcrafted gifts, street food, and spiced wine
- Savor local flavors: Sip a Mélange in a cozy Viennese coffeehouse or a foamy pivo in a sunny beer garden. Snack on hearty sausage, classic schnitzel, or peppery goulash. Satisfy your sweet tooth with flaky honey cake, rich Sachertorte, and cinnamon sugar trdelník
- Ideas for side trips from each city, including Liberec, Danube Bend, Lake Balaton, and the Kutná Hore Bone Church
- Expert insight from Budapest local Jennifer Walker and Prague local Auburn Scallon
- Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
- Helpful resources on COVID-19 and traveling to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest
- Background information on the landscape, history, and cultural customs of each city
- Handy tools such as visa information, Hungarian, German, and Czech phrasebooks, and tips for traveling with children or as a senior, solo female travelers, and LGBTQ+ travelers
About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.
For more inspiration, follow @moonguides on social media.
DISCOVER Prague, Vienna & Budapest
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
Planning Your Trip
IF YOU WANT…
DAY TRIPS AT A GLANCE
The Best of Prague, Vienna & Budapest
WHAT TO EAT IN PRAGUE, VIENNA, AND BUDAPEST
WINE TASTING IN CENTRAL EUROPE
Prague, Vienna, and Budapest offer travelers a rich tapestry of history and culture.
Before World War I, all three cities resided within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and traces of the crumbled Habsburg dynasty still linger in the decadent palaces and wide boulevards lined with extravagant buildings. Central Europe echoes the “World of Yesterday,” with its gilded opera houses, grand hotels, and the wood-paneled cafés perfumed with percolating coffee and freshly baked cakes. Against this historic backdrop, modern (futuristic, even) innovations, from cryptocurrency-friendly cafés to eye-catching public art installations, are a delightful contrast.
Life is slow, even reflective, and flows with the seasons. Locals flock to the beer gardens perched up in Letná Park in Prague to escape the summer heat. When the leaves rust as fall arrives, the Viennese drink “this year’s wine” in the Heurige near the city’s vineyards overlooking the Vienna Woods. And when the temperature drops in December, the scent of spiced hot wine winds around the cities’ Christmas markets. Music, art, and literature lovers can follow in the footsteps of giants, whether it’s visiting Dvořák’s grave in Prague, Freud’s favorite café in Vienna, or Liszt’s apartment in Budapest.
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Admiring spectacular architecture, from Prague’s dramatic Gothic monuments to colorful art nouveau in Budapest to Habsburg grandeur in Vienna.
2 Soaking in Budapest’s thermal baths.
3 Sipping foam-topped pivo (beer) in Prague’s beer gardens.
4 Listening to classical music in Vienna, the city where Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Schubert composed and conducted.
5 Following in the Habsburgs’ footsteps at Schönbrunn, their summer palace in Vienna.
6 Boating or cycling through the Wachau Valley, where crumbling castles, vineyards, and rolling hills line the banks of the Danube.
7 Getting to know Prague’s outer neighborhoods, where you can still get a taste of the untouched-by-tourists vibe the city was once known for.
8 Exploring the vast complex of Prague’s Vyšehrad, which is no less impressive (and much less crowded) than the Prague Castle.
9 Sipping a Melange in a cozy booth within a classic Viennese coffeehouse.
10 Browsing the stalls and enjoying a warm drink al fresco at a Christmas market in the Czech Republic. For a local atmosphere and fewer crowds, head to a market outside Prague.
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go
Since regaining independence in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Prague’s architectural beauty, fairy-tale atmosphere, and delicious beverages have secured the Central European capital a prominent place on travelers’ lists. Postcard-worthy sights like the Charles Bridge, St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle, or the church spires and Astronomical Clock of Old Town Square draw significant crowds to admire (and photograph) their beauty. Prague’s surrounding neighborhoods still hold plenty of undiscovered character to contrast the typical tourist experience of the historical city center. Head to hilltop Vyšehrad Complex for peaceful sightseeing, enjoy a night of culture inside the old-world glamour of Prague’s theaters and concert halls, and pair any activity, any time of day, with a nice cold pivo (beer).
Day Trips from Prague
For a quick trip, head north to Liberec to visit the mountaintop Ještěd Tower and embrace the summertime vibe at the reservoir, or reconnect with nature on a hike through the forests and sandstone rocks of Bohemian Paradise. The eastern town of Kutná Hora holds an impressive collection of churches (including one decorated in bones) and contemporary art. Free-flowing fountains of mineral springs draw a quieter crowd to the western spa town of Karlovy Vary. Combine a river rafting adventure with a visit to the picturesque castle of South Bohemia’s beloved Český Krumlov. Venture farther east into South Moravia to discover the diverse architecture and lively nightlife scene in Brno or pair local wines with stately chateaux in Mikulov, Lendnice, and Valtice.
Once the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna still bears the grandeur of the Habsburgs with its grand palaces, the Spanish Riding School, and extravagant parkland. Trace the footsteps of Gustav Klimt, then while away the hours in Vienna’s world-class art museums and galleries. Music aficionados should make pilgrimages to Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss’s former homes before taking in an opera at the world famous Staatsoper. Visit Freud’s former home, ride a 100-year-old Ferris wheel in the Prater, and round up the day people-watching in one of Vienna’s classic cafés.
Day Trips from Vienna
Nestled in the Alps, Salzburg—home to both Mozart and The Sound of Music—is just two hours from Vienna. Closer to the capital, you can sail up the Danube as it winds through the Wachau Valley where castles and monasteries dot the landscape, or hop on a train to Bratislava, Slovakia, to add another country to your itinerary. Mauthausen Concentration Camp is a poignant reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust. Right outside Vienna are the Vienna Woods, where you can visit the fairy-tale Liechtenstein Castle just outside Mödling, or relax in the spa town of Baden bei Wien.
A tale of two cities, Budapest is divided by the Danube River with spectacular vistas wherever you look. See sights like Buda Castle on Castle Hill, then spend some time soaking in one of the many thermal baths. By night crowds flock to the famous ruin pubs in the Jewish Quarter. Ride back into history on the Children’s Railway, the retro train operated by children, as it chugs up into the Buda Hills, or head over to Memento Park, where communist statues go to die. Once you’ve seen the sites and eaten your fill of goulash, delve deeper by visiting one of the city’s hundreds of caves or ride a boat up the Danube to one of the Danube beaches.
Day Trips from Budapest
It’s easy to escape Budapest for the day. Take the train down to Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake, where you can explore the magical peninsula of Tihany, stroll the promenade in Balatonfüred, or sunbathe and party down in Siófok. Alternatively, you can sail down the Danube Bend, hike up to the citadel at Visegrád for stunning views over the Danube, or explore the former Serbian community-turned-artists-colony in picturesque Szentendre. Get on the bus for a couple of hours to the city of Eger in north eastern Hungary, famous for resisting an Ottoman siege at its historic castle and also famous for its spicy red wines served down in the evocatively named Valley of the Beautiful Woman.
When to Go
There is no right or wrong time to embark on a journey through Central Europe. Prague, Vienna, and Budapest are beautiful year-round, with plenty to offer throughout the seasons.
High Season (Jun-Aug and Dec)
Summers can be scorching (sometimes rising above 40°C/104°F) and often come punctuated with flash storms. But this is when you can sail along the Vltava River, sunbathe on a beach beside the Danube, or grab a picnic in a leafy park. Skip July and August if you want to avoid the crowds, especially in Prague or Budapest, when the Sziget Festival is usually in full swing in the latter.
December, when the Christmas markets set up shop, is also a busy time in each city.
Shoulder Season (Apr-May and Sep-Nov)
If you’re outdoorsy, spring and fall may be your best bet. You get to escape intense temperatures of the summer months and the dreary cold weather of the winter. In the spring, cherry and apricot blossoms burst into bloom, and in the fall, the trees paint the landscape with a palette of rusty colors. Culinary and wine festivals take over the public spaces of the towns and cities—like the wine festival in Buda Castle—so if you’re a foodie it’s a good time to visit, with fewer crowds than you’ll experience in summer or December.
Low Season (Jan-Mar)
Winters can dip down to subzero temperatures (as low as -15°C/5°F), yet Central Europe is at its most beautiful in the snow. When the temperatures plunge, you can escape the chill in a museum or a cozy café with its own curious cast of local characters. Going during the off-season can be easier on the wallet, as hotels often have rooms available at lower prices, but many outdoor attractions close down or operate with limited opening hours.
Before You Go
Passports and Visas
Travelers from the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand do not need a visa to enter the EU for visits lasting under 90 days. To enter Europe, all you need is a passport that’s valid at least three months after your departure from the EU. (A visa is required for travelers from South Africa.) UK travelers should check for new regulations post-Brexit. At the time of writing, citizens from the UK were able to enter visa-free for a period lasting under 90 days. However, at the time of writing, there are proposed changes coming in 2022 that will affect non-EU travelers. Non-EU travelers who used to enter the Schengen Area freely on visa-waiver agreements, including US and UK travelers, will eventually be required to apply for ETIAS authorization (www.etiasvisa.com) before traveling.
Once you arrive in Central Europe, you can usually cross the borders without having your passport or ID checked. However, in some instances, like the Budapest to Vienna train, you may need to show your passport to the border control.
In general, it’s a good idea to purchase tickets for museums in advance, as you can save a lot of time skipping the lines when you arrive. Usually, you can do this before you set out in the morning—just ask your hotel to print out the ticket before you go.
However, there are some reservations that are worth making before you even get on the plane:
Special events in the Czech Republic, such as the Prague Spring classical music festival (www.festival.cz) or Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (www.kviff.com) can sell out months in advance. Most sights and experiences do not require reservations, but it can help to book English-language tours for the Prague Castle, Český Krumlov’s Baroque Theater, or Valtice Chateau in advance.
It’s a good idea to book tours for the Third Man Tour of the Vienna Sewers, which run one English language tour a day, or the Spanish Riding School in advance.
Book your ticket for the Hungarian Parliament before going. Spots are limited and fill up quickly in high season.
GETTING TO CENTRAL EUROPE
You can get to Central Europe by flying into Prague, Vienna, or Budapest directly, although there are more frequent international flights to nearby destinations like Frankfurt, Munich, or Berlin. Vienna International Airport (VIE; Wien-Flughafen, Schwechat; tel. 01/7007-22233; www.viennaairport.com) has the most long-haul connections out of the three cities, including many cities in the US and Canada. Václav Havel Airport Prague (PRG; Aviatická; tel. 02/20-111-888; www.prg.aero) has a few seasonal connections to the US and Canada. Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD; Budapest; tel. 01/296-9696; www.bud.hu) has a couple of transcontinental flights to Toronto, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia (temporarily suspended at the time of writing due to COVID). If you’re coming from Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa, you will have to change at a larger airport like Dubai or Istanbul before flying on to Central Europe. You can also get direct flights to the main airports in all three cities from London—and you also have the option of flying into Bratislava as well.
TRAVELING BETWEEN PRAGUE, VIENNA, AND BUDAPEST
Once you reach Central Europe, traveling between the three cities is pretty straightforward. Europe has excellent rail connections, and you can go between Prague, Vienna, and Budapest directly with RegioJet’s Prague-Vienna-Budapest line (www.regiojet.com), which was launched in 2020 and connects the three cities directly by rail. This service runs twice a day and takes 2 hours 40 minutes to go from Budapest to Vienna, and 4 hours 30 minutes from Vienna to Prague.
Since Budapest and Vienna, and Vienna and Prague are fairly close to each other, it’s not worth flying between the cities, which is expensive and may take just as much time as the train if you factor in check-in and security checks. This is especially true with the new direct route between Prague-Vienna-Budapest with RegioJet (www.regiojet.com). If you really have to take a plane, Austrian Airlines (www.austrian.com) does connect Vienna with both cities. Czech Airlines
- "Moon handbooks are always a pleasure to read. The writing is crisp, the research impressive, and the recommendations practical and down to earth."—Chicago Tribune
- “The books are more easily readable than other guides. The main attractions are also marked with a special icon and sidebars and boxes highlight special information, making the Moon handbooks one of the most user-friendly guides in terms of visual appeal and organization…the quality is uniformly excellent."—Transitions Abroad
- "Far from narrow minded, each Moon travel guide gives itinerary options for a variety of travelers’ budgets—from frugal to lavish. They make books catering to those who love the outdoors, those who have limited time, those staying exclusively in cities and those who’ve fully committed to living abroad. In all, they have hundreds of titles, ranging Bermuda to Budapest, that’ll teach you to embrace a new culture."—Gear Patrol, "The Best Travel Guidebooks for Every Journey"
- "Moon handbooks have become known as well-written and exceptionally informative guides."—The New York Times
- "Moon guides are perfect for the relaxed road tripper or outdoor explorer."—No Small Plan
- "Moon handbooks are known for cannily combining logistical information with cultural background of a country or state."—Los Angeles Times
- On Sale
- Mar 15, 2022
- Page Count
- 504 pages
- Moon Travel